Analysed by Robert Walton
In the 1940s there was an outpouring of potted pieces for piano and orchestra written specifically for British films. These include The Dream of Olwen (Charles Williams) from “While I Live”, The Legend of the Glass Mountain (Nino Rota) from “The Glass Mountain” and just for a change the real Rachmaninov for “Brief Encounter” borrowed from the Second Piano Concerto. It was Steve Race who cleverly coined the phrase “the Denham Concertos” after the film studio that often featured such works on their soundtracks.
But there were three really outstanding Rachmaninov-inspired works for piano and orchestra, two from movie soundtracks. The most popular was Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto from the 1941 film “Dangerous Moonlight”. Then there was Clive Richardson’s independent composition London Fantasia (1945), a brilliant depiction of the Battle of Britain. The third, Hubert Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody from the film “Love Story” (1944) was another World War 2 composition that caught the public’s imagination mostly because of the music. It’s the story of a concert pianist, played by Margaret Lockwood, who learning she had an incurable illness, moved to Cornwall.
Apart from the title Cornish Rhapsody that gives away its location, two other connections with the piece have a distinct English west country association. The composer’s surname reminds you of the famous Roman city but his birthplace was actually Barnstaple in neighbouring Devon.
The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer with pianist Harriet Cohen goes straight into the main tune. Then everything changes with sudden dramatic chords followed by a rippling run from Cohen who continues the theme. Back comes the orchestra until a solo violin produces a brief tender moment supported by an oboe, horn, and sustained double basses.
Now Cohen sensitively plays the melody on her own; the first time we hear it clearly. After the orchestra creeps in, she acts as decorator until a distinct break occurs. Heading for the heights, she goes into solo mode including some bird-like chirps in the treble (Messiaen would have approved). Then she gets heavy-handed working up a bit of a lather before quietly welcoming the orchestra back with some gentle highly technical pianistics. Thunderous percussion precedes the orchestra that spells out the tune in the strongest of terms. Cohen again joins up with some thrilling playing for some musical tennis, tossing the tune around with the orchestra. From there it’s all go to the end, building up to a colossal climax and giving the glorious main melody its final outing with soloist and orchestra coming together for a magnificent finale. That performance is guaranteed to make any audience applaud rapturously.
And that’s exactly the feeling I used to get each time I heard Cornish Rhapsody all those years ago. For me it was the best of the film piano and orchestra compositions probably because it was a simple tune yet at the same time so dramatic.
“The Composer Conducts” (Vol. 2)
“The Golden Age of Light Music”
Guild (GLCD 5178)
Tony, I see the difference, but I feel that what you are referring to are the inner workings that the public in general would know nothing about. Even in the case of the arrangements of popular songs, etc., though the arranger might be a bit more prominent, the average Joe on the street knows little and cares less about such things. You and I are aware of this, but I experienced it anew a few years ago listening to an outdoor summer band concert, wherein one of the numbers offered was the symphonic synthesis on Victory at Sea, allegedly composed by Richard Rodgers (as far as the public was and probably is concerned) and so announced, but really put together by Robert Russell Bennett, utilizing some tunes that Rodgers, as I like to put it, probably banged out with one finger. Of course, Rodgers was announced as the composer of that work, exclusively, and it did make me rather cranky to contemplate what I was listening to, as I knew beyond any doubt that it was Bennett who really put all the work into what I was listening to. Same with the Liverpool Requiem, which I referred to in a previous comment; allegedly composed by Paul McCartney but really worked out by Carl Davis - who has heard of Carl Davis aside from those in the field or who are alert to these matters? I feel that the differences such as you describe are of degree but it all comes down to the same thing, and I think that all around, we essentially agree regarding the injustice of it. If you look back at my essay covering Leroy Anderson's arrangements of Musical Comedy Medleys, this is very much brought out, both in my essay itself and in my return comment to someone who posted his comment. This was an essay I had shared with David before actually contributing anything to the JIM magazine, and I must say, he was delighted to read my viewpoint on the matter.Report Comment Link
William - re the Richard Addinsell / Roy Douglas Question -
With all the other examples you cite, the arrangers you mention - Kostalanetz, Farnon, Rose, etc.,
are generally given full credit for their work. In the case of Addinsell, he took total credit for the
composition of the Warsaw Concerto, and Roy Douglas's very considerable - and indispensible-
contribution to the work was effectively 'airbrushed' out of the equation. Addinsell made a fortune from that piece - Douglas only received a relatively small fee and virtually no recognition for his labours. The same thing happened, of course, with Mantovani's rather cavalier treatment of Ronald Binge, from whose work Mantovani also made a huge fortune, and Binge gained very little financial reward.
Tony, this sort of thing is aggravatingly common; more common than most realize. I brought this out in a comment I made some time back, on this site, in response to another comment. But think also of the songwriters such as Rodgers, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Youmans, etc., whose tunes everyone is humming, and then think of those magnificent settings that all of us in these light music societies have come to revel in and enjoy. Those responsible for those settings, such as Robert Russell Bennett, Ander Kostelanetz, Morton Gould, Leroy Anderson, Robert Farnon, David Rose, Victor Young, etc., etc., are the ones - I fully agree - that should be given full credit for their efforts, and back in the early 1950's, when I had discovered this genre and listening to and collecting recordings, many of these figures in some cases actually were, but times are different today. But this goes back even into the realm of serious music, most notably with the Five Russian Nationalist composers. Perhaps we should reappraise many of their efforts and give Rimsky-Korsakov that which is commonly assumed to be by Mussorgsky, and similar give to Glazunov that which we think of as by Borodin. Many purists will of course insist that they prefer the original unadulterated versions by the composers themselves, but I will offer the opinion that just as in my preferences in my contacts with others, I prefer listening to music that presents itself in a form that is completely articulate and literate - that is the analogy that I draw. And whether it is the composer him/herself or a transcriber four times removed, that makes for me not one whit of difference - the important thing is: how does the music present itself to us? - and if it engages us to a great extent, let us give the proper credit for what thus engages us to whomever it is due to.Report Comment Link
I'm sure that I cannot be the only person to think that there is such a strong resemblance between the introductory subject of the Cornish Rhapsody and the second subject of the Warsaw Concerto that one could almost be forgiven for imagining that Bath was guilty of a little bit of plagiarism !
Although the Warsaw Concerto was attributed to Richard Addinsell, (who made a very great deal of money out of it), in reality most of of the piece was composed, and all of it was orchestrated, by Roy Douglas, who never received proper credit - or due financial reward - for his considerable efforts.